The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) would like to send fraternal and revolutionary greetings to the workers and the poor on this important day, 1st May. On this day, Workers should push for their unity in the defence of their rights and fight against exploitation. Though the trade unions in this country have been subjected to serious bashing, they have remained resilient. We congratulate you for this resilience.
In Botswana this year’s May Day Celebration comes just two years before our country turns fifty (50) and a few months before the General Elections. The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) government, about twenty years ago, in a knee-jack reaction to the Botswana National Front’s Social Democratic Programme (SDP) came up with a Long Term Vision which aimed to achieve the following by 2016- An Educated and Informed Nation; A Prosperous, Productive and Innovative Nation; A Compassionate, Just and Caring Nation; A Safe And Secure Nation; An Open, Democratic and Accountable Nation; A Moral and Tolerant Nation.
It is clear that these pillars of the Vision will remain a mirage as long as the BDP is in power.
What should be done therefore is to push for Regime Change because the BDP is failing to deliver on its promises. How can we as a nation continue to bestow trust on a ruling party that continuously fails to achieve the objectives it has set for nation. It is the workers who agitated for regime change and we are sure that they will seize the opportunity in October General Elections to realise this. As the UDC we are united with the workers in the fight against exploitation, unemployment, inequality and corruption. We should go further and ensure that more women enter formal employment.
There is need to reconstruct the relationship between men and women on a more equal basis in the household and in the public sphere. More efforts have to be put in building a more egalitarian society, where the gap between the various strata in society is not wide as is currently. How we share the national cake should be regulated. Amilcar Cabral, said, “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children”.
The role of a progressive and revolutionary trade union is to expose and isolate elements that seek to enrich themselves from the sweat and blood of the workers. Regime Change that we are talking about should be about radical transformation of social and property relations. There have been numerous warnings against the danger of superficial change. There is a danger of simply replacing an individual clad in red with another one putting on a different colour while leaving the social and property relations unchanged. Our Independence has not benefited most of our people. We need to get ourselves ready to ensure that the next fifty (50) years provide opportunities for all. Labour should tell Capital that it is no longer prepared to accept poverty wages:
ÔÇó Mineworkers, who produce our wealth in the belly of the earth, are earning a tiny fraction of the surplus they produce. Some married couples still stay with their spouses and children in one room hostels.
ÔÇó Farm workers who produce our food work under near slave conditions.
ÔÇó Retail and commercial workers, many casualised women without basic benefits, barely make enough to pay for their transport.
ÔÇó Security workers who protect us, and transport workers who take us to work, work unbelievably long hours for a pittance.
ÔÇó Our nurses, teachers and police are not being fairly paid for the valuable services they provide.
Workers should embrace our campaign for Free Distribution of Sanitary Pads to poor Women. Progressive trade unions should tackle socio-economic issues beyond the shop floor. According to the regime, trade unions are supposed only to engage in “non-political” bread-andÔÇôbutter issues. What it has always deliberately failed to acknowledge is that the issues that affect the workers are fundamentally political. The political leadership makes decisions and laws which impact on the lives of the workers and therefore the workers have a democratic right to respond. This is what Democracy is all about, the right to question and advise the political leadership. Poverty in this middle income country is frightening. There is an argument that the new jobs seem to have increased rather than decreased the levels of poverty. There has also more and more retrenchments as a result of Privatisation. Privatisation has thrown even more people into poverty. Poverty inevitably leads to hunger. We as the UDC are opposed to Privatisation. GENERALLY IT IS ARGUED THAT PRIVATISATION LEADS To EFFICIENCY. To us efficiency is not a function of ownership but management. Inequality is not being measured correctly in this country. BDP government always talk of Per capita Income and avoids looking at the Gini coefficient, which measures inequality. While most of the poorest Batswana are less poor than before Independence, the rich are far better off, which has massively widened the wealth gap to the point that Botswana has become one of the most unequal societies in the world.
The solution to all these underlying problems remains in the fundamental restructuring of our economy, away from the exploitative economy we inherited from colonialism through BDP. What we inherited is an economy which is based on the expropriation of our natural resources. Put differently, it is a pit to port kind of economy. This should change in a few months when the Umbrella for Democratic Change takes over the reins of power.
Lastly, we call upon the BDP to negotiate in good faith with the Unions. Workers of this country deserve a decent salary increment.
*Mohwasa is UDC Spokesperson